Medicine

December 16 1905

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

In 1905, a man wrote to the Egyptian Gazette about the stricture and kidney disease that he had suffered with for 19 years. After living with excruciating pain and being told that he would only have three months to live, this man began taking Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills.
I was immediately curious about this, because Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills are a cheap, over the counter drug that people use today. While someone today might take these pills to relieve minor back pain, this man believes that they saved his life. This speaks a great deal to the quality of medicine during the early 1900’s.

In modern day America, kidney disease is often not curable and can usually only be delayed with extensive treatment and medication. As time passes and it gets worse, dialysis or a transplant is needed. I mention all of this to draw attention to the diagnosis of the man in the Egyptian Gazette. He suffered for 19 years and was diagnosed with three months to live, yet an over the counter drug managed to save his life. Either drugs were much better 100 years ago, or he was severely misdiagnosed. People often take for granted the high level of medicine and easy access to treatment that exists throughout the world today. I wonder how much of an impact old-fashioned medicine had on other people living in the early 1900’s.

Will Hanley
Will Hanley
Associate Professor of History

I study the legal history of the Middle East and teach at Florida State University.